Saturday, September 10, 2016 12:00 AM

Attacking Parkinsons where it lives

In 2007 medical researchers looking at Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties found an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease for those who lived and worked in agricultural areas sprayed with pesticides and especially for those on well water.

The Central Valley has the highest rates of Parkinson’s disease in California with Kings County being among the worst at 10 times higher than the rest of California. But until recently those with Parkinson’s had to leave the Valley to find experts in deep brain stimulation – a treatment that has allowed many patients to continue active lives.

For the past 10 years, Leatrice “Doddy” Blevins, 77, has had to travel several hours away from her Clovis home to get her deep brain stimulation device adjusted regularly. In August, Blevins had her first appointment with a neurologist recently recruited by UCSF to practice at Community Regional Medical Center, who did her fellowship training in deep brain stimulation at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Cong Z. Zhao, the only neurologist in the region specializing in movement disorders, says she looked for an area that had high need for her specialty.
Blevins’ daughter Jill Aiello says the transformation with this treatment has been nearly miraculous: “The DBS took mom back to where she was 15 years before when her disease started in 1991. She could drive again. She could go shopping by herself.”

Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at